Ravens rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw and New England Patriots rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower arrived at Alabama at the same time as blue-chip freshmen recruits.
Four years later, they'll square off Sunday night as starters for their respective teams.
"It's very exciting," Upshaw said. "We came in together. He was one of the first guys I became friends with. Me and Don'ta, we have a real good, close relationship there. It's definitely going to be a good rivalry."
Upshaw has 10 tackles and a half-sack in two games.
Hightower returned a Jake Locker fumble for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans. He ranks third on the Patriots with 13 tackles.
At Alabama, Hightower had 234 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and a blocked field goal. Upshaw had 141 tackles, 17 1/2 sacks, 36 1/2 tackles for losses, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception returned for a touchdown.
When asked if he'll be competitive with Hightower on Sunday, Upshaw replied: "Of course, I'm sure he's thinking the same thing. We always competed against each other at Alabama, so I'm sure it's going to be the same."
The Ravens' scouting department had very high grades on Hightower and Patriots first-round defensive end Chandler Jones, the younger brother of Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones, heading into the NFL draft. The Ravens drafted Upshaw in the second round after trading out of the first round when Jones and Hightower were already selected by the Patriots.
"We liked those guys a lot, and you probably know that already," coach John Harbaugh said. "Those guys are guys that we had ranked very highly. So, when they took those guys, there was one less good player on the board. Of course, we got a good player, too, so, we were happy about that."
Upshaw said he hasn't spoken with his friend this week, avoiding that conversation until Sunday.
"Nah, I try to stay away from my teammates on game week because they're trying to get ready," Upshaw said. "I try not to distract them."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun